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The D-WISE network
6th Newsletter (December 2022)

Dear readers,
Ahead of the winter break, we are pleased to launch the sixth issue of our newsletter. We know everybody is almost packing to going on holidays or already on vacation, but we hope you are excited to hear what we’ve been up to since July!
In this short issue, we want to tell you more about our new and old members, our bi-annual members' meeting, as well as our plans for 2023. We also want to update you on the recently adopted Council Conclusions on including persons with disabilities in the labour market. 
If you are interested in the work of our network, keep reading our newsletters and do share with us any feedback you may have on what you’d like to learn more about.
We wish you happy winter holidays!

News and recent activities from the D-WISE network

Samhall travels across Europe to visit the ONCE Social Group in Spain


On the 30th of November and 1st of December Samhall top management team, led by their CEO, Sara Revell, visited the ONCE Foundation and the ILUNION Business Group in Madrid (Spain).

For one and a half days, they had the opportunity to learn about the Spanish context, the work done by the ONCE Foundation, and the business and employment model of the ILUNION Business Group.

The visit started at the ONCE Foundation’s first training centre for digital and technological skills, “Por Talento Digital”, and continued with a meeting with the Secretary General, the Director of Training and Employment, Operations and Agreements, and the Director of Inserta in Madrid. The three of them explained the origin and history of the ONCE Social Group, the priorities of the organization, and the main figures in terms of employment creation, both through hiring and through their employment services.

During the visit to Inserta’s regional office in Madrid, they got to know about ONCE Foundation’s placement and recruitment services for persons with disabilities, their methodology, and their main programs targeting specific groups, such as youth, women victims of gender violence and people with psychosocial disabilities. 

Later, the team visited one of the work centres of ILUNION Outsourcing, where around 100 employees work in assembling, packaging and quality control activities. Finally, they met the Director of one of ILUNION’s hotels, ILUNION Atrium, where they were actually staying, and visited one of the universally accessible rooms, while learning about the hotel chain business model, built upon employment creation for persons with disabilities, client satisfaction, and accessibility. The day ended with dinner at the hotel hosted by the ONCE Social Group.

Next day the group visited the ILUNION Group Headquarters at the ILUNION Tower, where they met some of the ILUNION Board members led by Fernando Riaño (Corporate Director of Institutional Relations and Sustainability) and learnt about the origin and structure of the social business Group, its main financial indicators, an overview of its recruitment processes, and its business model, based on the combination of financial profitability and social impact. They could also discuss the main opportunities and challenges for the sector in both countries, as well as in Europe.  

The CEO of Samhall, Sarah Revell, then visited Servimedia (ONCE Social Group Media Agency, leader in social information) where she was interviewed. The best moments of the interview can be watched on Youtube, available via the following links: Sara Revell on future challenges, Sara Revell on common areas of activity, Sara Revell on lessons learnt).

Finally, the delegation visited a centre of ILUNION Telecare and an Industrial Laundry, both sectors of interest for Samhall. 

During the study visit, Samhall and ILUNION could share their current strategy and plans for the future and expressed their willingness to work together to further increase their impact on the social and labour inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Sweden and Spain will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2023, which will for sure offer opportunities for both organizations to collaborate.

                   Photos taken during the visit of Samhall to ONCE Social Group in Spain

The D-Wise Network holds its second bi-annual Member's Meeting! 

14 December 2022

On the 14th of December 2022, the D-WISE network held its second bi-annual Members' meeting for 2022, this time online. 
The meeting commenced with opening remarks by Javier Güemes (Director of International Affairs of the ONCE Social Group), who welcomed our new member, ADV Romania, to the network, and further highlighted the importance of on-going policy developments in the sector of employment for persons with disabilities. 

ADV Romania also had the opportunity to present itself and its work to the D-WISE Network members and partners. ADV Romania is the largest social enterprise employing persons with disabilities in the country, a private-owned entity that has worked hard for more than 20 years for the improving the employment and quality of the life of disadvantaged people.

Sabina Lobato (Director of training and employment of ONCE Foundation) presented the work plan of the Network for 2023, which includes upcoming case studies of Finland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, country visits with the potential new members and the elaboration of a mapping of the state of play of sheltered employment in Europe, among other many activities. The Members of the Network also gave their input and priorities for 2023. 

Further, Members had the opportunity to exchange on the national state of play of legislation affecting WISEs across their home Member States, elaborating on the policy issues faced across Europe, and identifying similarities and differences across the EU. Many highlighted political uncertainty, lack of funding opportunities, the need to upskill and reskill, as well as the lack of prioritisation of employment and labour policies in their governments' agendas as key issues currently faced by the sector. 

The Members exchanged on the Council Conclusions on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market (available via the link here), adopted by the Council of the EU on 8 December; the European Commission’s Practitioner toolkit on strengthening PES to improve the labour market outcomes of persons with disabilities (available here) and the Commission’s Webinar on Improving labour market access for people with disabilities (available here). 
Lastly, the D-WISE Secretariat also informed the Members of the upcoming opportunities in the first quarter of 2023, including a catalogue of positive actions to facilitate hiring of persons with disabilities involving employers which will also address measures such as awareness raising in relation to the abilities, talents and the potential of persons with disabilities, coordinated information, financial and other support for employers, in particular for SMEs, published by the European Commission.

What next for the network? 

In 2023, the D-WISE network plans on:

  • Conducting case studies of Finland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania and a mapping of state of play of sheltered employment in Europe.
  • Organizing a virtual meeting of the Network in Spring.
  • Expanding the current list of members and partners.

What is happening around the block? 

Council Conclusions on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market

On Thursday 8 December, the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (employment and social policy) met to discuss, among others, the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labour market.
During the meeting, the Council adopted the draft conclusions of the Czech Presidency as published on 11 November (available via the link here).

In its conclusions, the Council specifically mentions sheltered employment, recognising that, when employed, persons with disabilities often work in sheltered employment rather than in the open labour market, or in lower qualified, lower paid (as evidenced by the 16% average annual wage gap) and less secure jobs with less access to training opportunities, which puts them at a higher risk of in-work poverty. The Council also recognised that sheltered employment is an important factor that plays a role in ensuring that persons with disabilities can access and participate in the open labour market. According to the Council, social economy actors play an important role in providing opportunities for persons with disabilities and allowing ‘an economy that works for the people’. In that sense, the Council recognizes that “in order to promote the labour market participation of persons with disabilities, it is important to foster social enterprises and make full use of their potential to act as bridges from quality sheltered employment into the open labour market”.

The Council further reiterated the importance of supporting open market employers in their efforts to recruit and retain people with disabilities, and that the role of employers in the sheltered labour market as well as social enterprises in supporting progressive inclusion and transition to the open labour market needs to be recognised and promoted. 

Bearing in mind the above, the Council invites the Commission to support and monitor the implementation of the initiatives set out in the Disability Employment Package, and help disseminate its deliverables, practical tools and guidelines, support and monitor the implementation of relevant measures set out in the Action Plan for the Social Economy, continue monitoring progress and the situation of persons with disabilities in the employment, education and training, poverty and social inclusion areas, with special attention to women with disabilities and persons facing multiple forms of discrimination and support education, exchange of best practices, training of persons with disabilities and existing programmes targeting those areas.

While the Conclusions are not legally binding, they constitute important guiding principles for the political direction of Member States. Importantly, the Council urges EU Member States to implement relevant guidelines and actions included in the Disability Employment Package, and help disseminate the deliverables of the Package among all relevant national actors and develop case management methods for supporting persons with disabilities on the path to the open labour market, including close cooperation between employment services, organisations of persons with disabilities, health services, social security institutions, social services and vocational rehabilitation services. 

The Council also invites Member States to use the potential of social enterprises that have expertise in integrating and combining social and entrepreneurship approaches, for supporting the labour market inclusion of persons with disabilities, and strengthen cooperation with local and regional stakeholders promoting employment for persons with disabilities. 

Further, Member States are invited to develop systems and incentives to encourage employers to employ persons with disabilities and support the vocational training and education of persons with disabilities and the development of accessibility skills for professionals, and ensure that their social protection policies effectively contribute to facilitating the employment of persons with disabilities, including where appropriate through compensation for the extra cost associated with disability even for those who are employed, as well as utilise available funding instruments such as the ESF+ to support labor inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Lastly, the Council urges EU countries to ratify and implement policies covered by the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030, including by
  • Establishing targets by 2024 for increasing the employment rate of persons with disabilities and reducing employment rate gaps between persons with and without disabilities,
  • strengthening the capacities of employment services for persons with disabilities and enhancing work with social partners and organisations of persons with disabilities;
  • facilitating self-employment and entrepreneurship of persons with disabilities by providing legal and business support; and 
  • setting targets for the participation of adults with disabilities in learning and including them in national skills strategies. .

News from our members

NFRI: Online Fair of Social Enterprises, Bulgaria
From 14 to 21 November 2022, the National Federation of Employers of Disabled People (NFRI) organized an online Fair of Social Enterprises from Bulgaria, with the participation of 50 exhibitors of goods and services.

The online fair "Social Entrepreneurs" was held within the announced World Entrepreneurship Week, on the web platform The  National Federation of Employers of the Disabled was the main organizer, with the support of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in Bulgaria.

The event was also organized in connection with the implementation of Objective 2  of the Action Plan for social economy of the Republic of Bulgaria for 2022-2023, namely the "Creation of partnerships and dissemination of good practices in the field of the social economy, support for the development of a socially responsible, digital, green and economically active social and solidarity economy". 

The fair emphasised on the positive impact of the development of digital marketing, and explored aspects such as the technological development of a reliable and well-functioning business, recognizable in the digital space, as well as ways towards accelerating the integration of social enterprises in the online space, in order to enable social enterprises to be more successful and promote their activities, develop their brand identity and enhance their public recognition.  The fair further showcased the level of diversity in the economic activities of social enterprises. The main number of exhibitors were from the textile, food and processing industries, cosmetics, art products, tourist, consulting, advertising services, and more. Exhibitors presented clothing and knitwear, folk costumes, bedding, furniture, wood products, plastic products, work and uniform clothing products for people with hearing problems, hotel supplies and herbal cosmetics, bio-products, garden furniture, paper bags, web advertising and design, travel services, a publishing house and more, as well as services for people with disabilities such as art therapy and occupational therapy.

The fair was an excellent way to provide opportunties for the expansion of access to new markets of social economy enterprises participating in the online exhibition.  Through the exposure provided by the fair through social networks, social entrepreneurs who successfully combine business and a social cause, providing jobs and an opportunity for professional expression to people with disabilities were granted much deserved visibility. 

Raising awareness and sensitivity to social entrepreneurship is an important step towards improving the lives of disadvantaged groups in the labor market, strengthening tolerance between people and building internal social capital. As such, the online fair gave a clear message about the importance of social entrepreneurship in Bulgaria and the contribution made by vulnerable groups in the labor market for the development of the social economy.

You can find more information about the fair via the following link:


Get to know our members and partners:  

ZIPS (Slovenia)

In each issue of our newsletter, we include a message from one of the partner organisations to present their work in advancing inclusive employment in their country and Europe. In this third issue, you can learn more about ZIPS (please visit their website via the following link).

The Alliance of Companies Employing Disabled People of Slovenia (ZIPS) was established in July 1991 as a result of the final restructuring of the former Association of Companies Employing Disabled People of Slovenia. The Association's predecessor was the Business Alliance of Workshops Employing Disabled People of Slovenia, which was set up in 1980 as an organised affiliation of companies employing disabled people with the view to achieving common goals as well as specific objectives. Since that time the Alliance has fully established and confirmed the idea that even severely disabled people may be employed under specific conditions and terms, and consequently successfully integrated into commercial programmes, which continue to be supported by a minimum 20% share of public funds in the form of various types of economic relief – an integral part of social economy, becoming more and more clearly defined in the European Union due to comprehensive social integration of people with disabilities.

There were 10 original founders of ZIPS; today there are 111 companies employing disabled people in total, which are businesses with the status of companies employing disabled people. The ZIPS implements the following key tasks:

  • regulation of general and common issues in the area of training and employing people with disabilities in the companies employing disabled people;
  • examination and promotion of specific social activities and other forms of social security for disabled people in regular employment or in training;
  • concern for further specialist education of both disabled people as well as other employees, with particular emphasis on management and administration of companies employing disabled people;
  • liaising between the planning and expedience of operations and development of the companies employing disabled people as well as introducing state-of-the-art technologies;
  • joint representation before national authorities with regard to the regulation of status, economic relief and obtainment of funds;
  • creation and introduction of new product lines, and planning of a common market policy;
  • implementation of services in legal operations on behalf of either individual or several founders
ZIPS represents a voluntary affiliation of businesses which have been granted the status of companies employing disabled people. With their monthly contributions, the founders of ZIPS alone provide the funds for the running of ZIPS.

The ZIPS bodies are the Board, made up of directors of individual founders, the Chairman and the General Secretary.

About the D-WISE network

The D-WISE Network is an international partnership promoted by Fundación ONCE and co-financed by the European Social Fund, with the aim to examine and raise awareness about the role of the social economy sector (the so-called Work Inclusion Social Enterprises, WISEs) in creating employment and facilitating the labour inclusion of persons with disabilities in Europe

National partners

National partner organisations include Fundación ONCE (Spain), APF France handicap (France), Cedris (Netherlands), Groep Maatwerk (Belgium), Samhall (Sweden), ZIPS (Slovenia), OSVIT (Croatia), NFRI (Bulgaria), SOTEK Foundation (Finland) and ADV Romania (Romania) 

European network partners

EU network partners encompass the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR) and the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD)

Observer organizations

Workability International, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Disability Forum (EDF), and the European Union of Supported Employment (EUSE) serve as observers.

This newsletter is designed in an accessible way for screen-reader users. If you require an alternative accessibility format, please be in touch and we will aim to provide for your accessibility needs immediately. 

For further information on the project, please contact: 
Carolina Serrano Alvarez
+32 471 87 74 30

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